Up at Yale yesterday, they renamed the dining hall of Calhoun College for Roosevelt Thompson, a Yale student of color of the Class of 1984 who got killed in a car crash his senior year.
John C. Calhoun, a non-colored Yale graduate of the Class of 1804, was originally the namesake of the Yale residential college and dining hall which opened in 1933. Calhoun was singled out for that honor on the basis of having been Vice President of the United States, and thus being, as the college’s Wikipedia entry notes, “the only Yale graduate to be elected to a federal executive office in the school’s first two centuries, until the election of U.S. President William Howard Taft in 1909.”
John C. Calhoun served additionally as Secretary of State and Secretary of War. He was elected four times to the House of Representatives, and twice to the U.S. Senate. In the Senate, the strength of his ideas and his rhetorical powers won Calhoun the very exceptional place in History of being traditionally regarded as one of the three all-time giants, along with Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, as the “Great Triumvirate” or the “Immortal Trio,” of that legislative chamber.
John C. Calhoun, beyond his political career, was distinguished as the greatest and most influential writer on Political Philosophy ever produced by Yale. Calhoun was on the losing side of history, as a supporter of Secession and States’ Rights, and as an agrarian defender of Slavery as a benevolent institution and a positive good. His opinions on those issues were defeated on the battlefield, and History has turned the page, but his spirited defense of the rights of minorities to be protected as “concurrent majorities” by limitations on the numerical power of the majority still deserves contemporary consideration and respect.
Roosevelt Thompson is demonstrably considered worthier of (so far, only) Calhoun’s Dining Hall simply on the bases of being born with melanin in his skin, being a popular and successful student, and having died young. Whether the appropriation of John C. Calhoun’s honors at Yale stops with the dining hall remains to be seen. Yale President Peter Salovey mendaciously announced last April that Calhoun College would be keeping its name, then, in late summer, announced the appointment of a “Committee to Establish Principles of Renaming.” Salovey’s Stalinist Renaming Committee is stocked fully with Social Justice Warriors and opponents of hierarchy, Southern Agrarianism, States’ Rights, and John C. Calhoun, so the fix is in.